The Philippine government has suspended the issuance of visas to all foreign nationals amid the threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
This, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles announced during a media briefing on Sunday.
“Visa issuance to all foreign nationals is suspended with immediate effect,” Nograles said.
“Visa-free privileges based on visa waiver agreements those under Executive Order 408 series of 1960, holders of Hong Kong and Macau SAR passports, Macau Portuguese passports and British national overseas passports are also suspended effective 22 March 2020,” Nograles also said.
Exempted from this order are foreign spouses and children of Filipinos, Nograles said.
On the other hand, foreign nationals with visas previously issued by foreign service posts will not be allowed entry into the Philippines beginning March 22, Nograles said, with the exception of accredited foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents.
Foreign spouses and children of Filipino nationals whose visas will remain valid and will be honored when entering the country even after March 22 are also exempted from this order, the Malacanang official said.
“Accordingly, the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) shall issue the necessary implementing circular relative to the foregoing,” Nograles said.
The entire island of Luzon has been placed under an enhanced community quarantine since March 17 until April 13 in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Under this condition, strict home quarantine has been implemented in all households, transportation suspended, provisions for food and essential health services regulated, and the presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedures heightened.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Loscin Jr said on Thursday, March 16, foreigners from at least 100 countries enjoying visa-free privileges will likewise not be able to travel to the Philippines temporarily.
Locsin said all Philippine visas previously issued to foreigners were likewise deemed canceled.
As the DFA is in charge of issuing visas in its foreign posts abroad, visa applications will not be approved during the Luzon lockdown, which lasts from March 17 until April 12.
After President Rodrigo Duterte placed an island-wide lockdown on Luzon, stringent travel restrictions were implemented to manage the flow of non-Filipinos coming from countries with a high number of confirmed coronavirus cases.
The Philippines earlier limited the suspension of visa issuances to foreigners coming from China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Aside from this, the Bureau of Immigration in January 2020, suspended the visa upon arrival (VUA) mechanism for Chinese tourists and businessmen.
With the new pronouncement, travelers from at least 100 countries that enjoy visa-free privileges to the Philippines, including the United States and several countries in Europe, will no longer be allowed to enter the Philippines.
Before Thursday’s announcement, non-Filipino travelers coming from North Gyeongsang Province, including Daegu City and Cheongdo County in South Korea; as well as Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China – ground zero of the coronavirus outbreak – were not allowed to enter the country.
All Filipinos traveling as tourists were also barred from leaving the country during the lockdown./Stacy Ang